Is it selling? Pitching? Leadership? Creativity? Nope, not quite. For the answer, just ask Charles Darwin.
If you're an entrepreneur, what skill can you absolutely not do without? Selling might come up as an obvious possible answer—after all, every business owner regardless of their venture needs to persuade someone to part with their cash. Or in this high-tech world is it a specific bit of know-how, such as SEO optimization or website design? Or could it possibly be pitching and self presentation?
While all of these abilities are obviously valuable to entrepreneurs, and no one can get along starting a business if they're is entirely devoid of them, a recent Copyblogger post argues that the one skill every entrepreneur must possess to succeed is actually none of the above. What is it? The ability to evolve.
The post points out that with technology putting so much knowledge at our fingertips, specific skills are pretty easy to come by. "You can learn anything nowadays, usually for free. Want to learn how to field-strip an obscure Russian firearm that hasn't been manufactured since 1927? I'll bet someone has made a YouTube video showing you how," it says. And if the Internet can help you keep your Kalashnikov in good working order, think how much info is easily available about choosing a WordPress theme or perfecting your elevator pitch.
Instead, says Copyblogger, entrepreneurs should stress over their ability to swivel and flex in reaction to the rapidly changing business environment. It's the ability to process and react to new information as it becomes available. "What you need is the mindset to actually go out and use what you know. You don’t need skills. You need meta-skills," declares the post, listing the following components entrepreneurs need to master to avoid the nasty side of Darwinian selection:
You've got to learn to be uncertain and take risks. If you stay within what's known and safe, you will never be truly successful. Doing what's uncertain and risky isn't easy, and that's why the people who dare to do it are rewarded.
You've got to learn to lead, which simply means going out and doing things. If you do things instead of always thinking and talking about doing things, then congratulations, you're a leader. Others will follow.
You've got to learn to solve problems. Kids… need to learn how to look at a situation, determine which resources they need, and then go find those resources in order to solve the problem. We must all learn to fish instead of relying on others giving us fish.
You've got to start believing you can do it. That sounds rah-rah, but it's very important.
The post goes on to point to resources to help you develop these skills as well as offering examples of companies both famous and obscure that survived because of their owners' ability to evolve, so if you're intrigued, check it out.
Copyblogger's case seems plausible, but do you buy it? Is the ability to evolve truly the singular and most important skill for entrepreneurs?
JESSICA STILLMAN is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist. @EntryLevelRebel